It’s match day.
I’m sorry folks, I’m finding it tough to really get ‘up’ for this game at Stamford Bridge away to Chelski tonight. They have Champions League Football to play for, we have the slimmest of hopes of a potential place in the UEFA CONFERENCE LEAGUE, in which the name itself is as depressing as one can imagine. Honestly, I’d rather just not, I’d rather just have a complete reset with no European Football than drop into a third tier European competition. But I understand that Mikel can’t have that mentality and as he said in his press conference yesterday, there needs to be an element of pride and fight in the team until this wretched season is over. Then, hopefully, the mass-scale clear out can happen.
And that’s the part of his words yesterday that I take the most comfort from, because he was pretty honest that we haven’t been good enough, that there was a lot of work to do and that the club would need to settle a lot of things hanging in the air. It isn’t until now that he’s even come close to admitting that a mass clearing of the weeds and moss that has grown on our squad will happen and the fact that he’s even hinting at it now makes me hopeful that sweeping changes will come. In fact, it’s the only thing that makes me want to keep any element of faith with him because after that insipid exit to Villareal, I found it hard to believe anything he said.
What a difference a season makes though, eh? Just look at our opponents tonight, with whom in August we were chuckling away at their defeat in the FA Cup final to us. At the time we had a tactically astute manager, somebody who had managed to get a tune from so many duffers in the Arsenal squad, with an excitement for the season. Fast forward nine months and that disgusting team from West London have a tactically astute manager who knows what he is doing, is getting more than what many expected from his group of what many thought were duffers, and now they are in two cup finals and will qualify for the Champions League next season.
Of course there are mitigating circumstances. Whilst I talk af Arsenal’s ‘duffers’ I am talking about legacy players like Elneny, Lacazette, Willian et al who were either already at the club and declining, or have joined the club as if it was their last payday. The duffers Tuchel has to work with include £222million worth of purchases last summer, as well as £90million of signings the season before, despite going through a transfer ban (Pulisic and Kovacic). So It’s not as if Tuchel has wandered in to see Mohammed Elneny return from loan and suddenly become one of the few midfield options he has.
This is not to re-litigate Mikel Arteta’s actions or excuse him from the mistakes he’s made, but it does seem a little unfair to compare the dumpster fire that is our squad and what Tuchel has walked in to. But it does help his rapid ascent and position Chelski find themselves in today.
They are a team in form – waaaaay better form than us – and they are at home, which is a ground we haven’t won at in ten year’s, so I’m not expecting anything to come from this evening’s game other than another defeat, if I’m honest. I know this season has been weird in that records have been broken all over the shop (we’ve lost to Wolves, Villa, Leicester at home for the first time in like a billion years, whilst winning at United for the first time in like a billion years), but I can’t really make a case for us this evening and I think if we can keep the scoreline down then I’d probably take that. And to be honest as long as we don’t embarrass ourselves tonight I am not really fussed what the score is going to be. Don’t get me wrong, I always want Arsenal to win, I’ll be happier if we win tonight rather than draw or lose, but I just want this season to be over. So, So, much. It holds nothing left for me now. My eyes are firmly on a summer free of Arsenal playing and then looking towards what we can do to make this squad less sh*t in prep of the August kick off.
At least that is one positive on the horizon; fans back in the ground next season and I got my email from Arsenal saying they are expecting full crowds. That’s brilliant news as I’d suspected there might be talk of half-full stadiums and yet more ballots for tickets. But if Arsenal have been given wind by the Government that there will be people able to come in to grounds in August then I am all for it. And I’ll be excited for it. Depending on how crap our summer goes in terms of incomings and outgoings I might still not be too hopeful over the football itself, but at least I’ll have the camaraderie of a match day and hopefully the fans will also become that 12th man that pretty much every team has admitted it has lacked this season.
I’m 900 words in to today’s blog and reaching the end and I haven’t even talked about team tactics and who will play tonight. Again, sorry to sound a little too negative, but I just don’t really care. Actually, that’s not entirely true, because I would like to see Arteta giving places to some periperhal squad players to see if they can handle the step up in class; players like Balogun and Azeez, for example, but I suspect we’ll get more of the tripe that is Ceballos waddling through the midfield and Willian waddling around and backwards passing on the flanks. Meh.
Tactics wise, is it really even worth thinking about? This isn’t a game with a lot riding on it so I’m less minded to bother trying to work out what they will do and what we will do. Sorry folks.
Back tomorrow with a post mortem.